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WWII veteran recalls 'great jubilation' of VJ Day

TULSA, Okla. — In the 1940s, Oklahoman Ed Livermore spent years training on the latest military artillery as World War II ground on, but he never saw battle. Victory over Japan Day saved him from combat, he says.

Livermore was drafted in 1942, attended Officer Candidate School and trained on automatic weapons and 110 mm howitzers. He was later recommended for the Army's Counterintelligence Corps and arrived in Tokyo on Sept. 4, 1945 — two days after the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was signed on the USS Missouri. The document signified the end of World War II.

He described the mood in the U.S. at the time as "jubilation, great jubilation."

Livermore, a native of Hobart in southwestern Oklahoma, felt his life had been spared, he said.

"We were all saved from Operation Olympic, which would have probably have been quite devastating," the 94-year-old retired Sapulpa and Claremore newspaper publisher said during a recent interview at his Tulsa home.

Operation Olympic, set to begin in October 1945, was part of Operation Downfall, the Allied plan for invading Japan.

"It was a great relief because I wasn't going to die."

He was flown from Fort Lewis, Wash., to Toyko by way of Hawaii, Manila and Yokohama, Japan.

"Of course, Tokyo was devastated when we arrived. ... I recall going out the American Embassy, which was still standing, and noticing that all around it everything was destroyed."

The embassy and the Dai-Ichi Building, across from the Imperial Palace, were spared from the bombing raids "because (Gen. Douglas) MacArthur knew that would be his headquarters, if and when they got there," Livermore said.

The Dai-Ichi Building formerly housed an insurance company and was where the Counterintelligence Office was located, giving Livermore a front-row seat to the comings and goings of Mac-Arthur. He recalled the more memorable attraction was the Japanese people's reaction to the general, who maintained a strict schedule.

"They just came out of everywhere. ... They would stand there at full attention, and the minute that old Mac-Arthur got out of that old Packard they all just bowed down," Livermore said.

"Not a few; there would be acres of them."

Livermore spent several weeks in Tokyo before he was moved to Sapporo, where he and others in his unit collected information about the war effort there. The city's northern location made it attractive to the Soviet Union, which had recently seized the nearby Sakhalin Island.

"It was a great experience as far as I was concerned — I didn't lose any blood," he said.

By that time, "We had no occasion to have a confrontation at all. ... The Japanese people were extremely cooperative."

amanda.bland@tulsaworld.com

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